YOUR OWN ROYAL GARDEN: There are plenty of regal roses and plants to impress the neighbours
Some, like the Royal Oak and Tudor Rose go back centuries. Others, such as David Austin’s enchanting and brand-new shrub rose Elizabeth, were launched to mark Her Majesty’s Jubilee year.
Like its namesake, Rosa Elizabeth is a truly regal variety, exceptionally healthy and with a long flowering season. The double, pale pink to apricot flowers have a pleasant, old-rose fragrance. I’ll be ordering one for planting this October.
Perennially popular: Rosa Queen Elizabeth has been around since the 1960s. Nigel Colborn explains how they are a regal choice
The older variety Rosa Queen Elizabeth became hugely popular from the early 1960s. Bred by American rosarian Walter Lammerts, it’s a robust, tall growing mid-pink bush variety.
Other Royal Family plants include Rosa Elizabeth of Glamis, named for the late Queen Mother and a purple speckled orchid, Vanda William Catherine. In honour of the third in line to the throne, there’s a rather snazzy daffodil. With a lemon-yellow trumpet it’s called Georgie Boy.
The original Royal Oak, now the name of 467 British pubs, grew in Shropshire. In 1651 it provided a refuge for the future King Charles II.
He hid among its branches, narrowly avoiding capture and execution by Cromwell’s army.
Earlier still, from 1154 the Plantagenet kings took their name from wild broom. Sprigs of the yellow-flowered shrub were worn in battle, later becoming heraldic badges. The last Plantagenet, Richard III died in 1485, in the Wars of the Roses.
Richard’s crown went to Henry VII, first of the Tudors. To end that 32-year conflict, he combined both roses, creating the red and white Tudor Rose.
Roses seem so British and thrive in our climate. But their characteristics come mainly from Asian varieties.
The plant most unkindly besmirched by history was Sweet William, Dianthus Perennially popular: Rosa Queen Elizabeth has been around since the 1960s barbatus. In 1746, William, Duke of Cumberland led the English Army to quash the Jacobite Rebellion at Culloden. After that, many Scots changed the plant’s name from Sweet William to Stinking Billy.
There are many little plants with regal connections. The tiniest are sweet violets, Viola odorata. Violet specialist Groves, grovesnurseries.co.uk has a rich collection of odorata varieties. Most bloom from late winter, well into spring.
Among royally named varieties, V. odorata Princess Diana has pale pink flowers which show up in low light. Named after an earlier royal, fragrant V. Princess of Wales has slightly larger flowers in royal blue.
Dwarfing humble violets, the most majestic-looking plant is bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae. It was named after Queen Charlotte, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III.
London’s most vivid legacy, though comes from Queen Victoria. Impressed by the first red geraniums to be bedded outside Buckingham Palace, she decreed that they be planted there every summer. And so they are, setting off the Victoria memorial and guardsmen’s uniforms.